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Organic Matter and Nitrogen Removal within Field-Scale Constructed Wetlands: Reduction Performance and Microbial Identification Studies

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This study investigated organic matter and nitrogen reduction and transformation mechanisms within a field-scale hybrid natural purification system. The system included an oxidation pond, two serial surface-flow wetlands with a cascade in between, and a subsurface-flow wetland receiving secondary treated dormitory sewage. The average biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal was 81 and 48%, respectively. Microbial degradation was the primary process contributing to organic reduction. Total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) and ammonium decreased from 7.1 to 3.9 and 5.58 to 3.25 mg/L, respectively, within the surface-flow wetlands. The results indicated that nitrification occurred within the aerobic compartments. The nitrate levels continued to decrease from 1.26 to 1.07 mg/L, indicating nitrate reduction occurred in the surface-flow wetland. Total nitrogen decreased from 8.61 to 5.12 mg/L, equivalent to a 41% reduction, within the surface-flow wetlands. Results revealed that denitrification might concurrently occur in the compartment of surface-flow wetland. Total nitrogen continued to decrease from 5.12 to 3.99 mg/L within the anoxic subsurface-flow wetlands through denitrification transformation. The significant total nitrogen reduction observed was 65%. The predominant reduction of total nitrogen might take place within the sediment of surface flow and the subsurface-flow wetland where denitrification occurred. The microbial identification results also indicated that nitrification/denitrification might occur concurrently within the sediments of surface-flow wetlands.

The results of this study show that hybrid wetland systems are a viable option for organic matter and nitrogen transformation and removal in tropical regions where tertiary wastewater systems are too costly or unable to operate. Treated water from these systems can comply with local surface water criteria rendering water for reuse and groundwater recharge.

Keywords: constructed wetlands; microbial identification; nitrogen

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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